The Blancheville Monster Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: October 18, 2022 (as part of Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror)
Video: 1.85:1/1080p/Black & White
Audio: English and Italian LPCM 1.0 Mono
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Run Time: 89:09
Director: Alberto De Martino
Note: This Blu-ray is currently only available as part of Arrow’s Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror four-movie set, which also includes Lady Morgan’s Vengeance (Italian: La vendetta di Lady Morgan, 1965), The Third Eye (Italian: Il terzo occhio, 1966), and The Witch (Italian: La strega in amore, 1966).
Emilie de Blancheville (Ombretta Colli) returns home to her brother, Roderic (Gérard Tichy), only to find herself falling victim to her family’s curse. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (Italian: La maschera del demonio; aka: The Mask of Satan and Revenge of the Vampire, 1960) was a watershed film that brought Italian horror to the international masses, heralded Bava as a genre leader, and introduced the world to the incomparable Barbara Steele. As was the tradition, success led to imitation, leading to a short, but extensive series of moody, black & white Gothic horror films, including (but not limited to) Antonio Margheriti’s Castle of Blood (Italian: Danza Macabra, 1964), The Virgin of Nuremberg (Italian: La vergine di Norimberga; aka: Horror Castle, 1963), and The Long Hair of Death (Italian: I Lunghi Capelli della Morte, 1964), Massimo Pupillo’s Terror-Creatures from the Grave (Italian: 5 tombe per un medium; 1965), Mario Caiano’s Nightmare Castle (Italian: Amanti d’oltretomba, 1965), Camillo Mastrocinque’s An Angel for Satan (Italian: Un angelo per Satana, 1966), Riccardo Freda’s The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (Italian: L'orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock, 1962) and its sequel, The Ghost (Lo spettro, 1963).
Released in the heart of the fad, Alberto De Martino’s The Blancheville Monster (aka: Horror, 1963) isn’t the most memorable or groundbreaking of the bunch, but it is a textbook example, at least in terms of its look and storytelling choices. The screenplay was written by Bruno Corbucci and Gianni Grimaldi, who paired for Margheriti’s Castle of Blood the following year (on which Bruno’s brother Sergio was replaced as director early into filming). While Bava is still the key inspiration, the plot draws from Edgar Allan Poe, a writer that was especially popular in Italy at the time, following to Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle movies. Corman’s first Poe adaptation was Fall of the House of Usher (aka: House of Usher) in 1960 and Corbucci & Grimaldi borrow many of their Poe-isms from the same source. The Corman version, which sticks closer to the original material, comes out ahead thanks to Vincent Price’s impeccable performance and Floyd Crosby’s incredibly vivid photography. Despite a strong attempt at doing a Corman-like, last act dream sequence, The Blancheville Monster feels comparatively antiquated and sluggish. Still, Alejandro Ulloa’s monochromatic cinematography is quite striking, especially when shooting the outdoor locations, and De Martino has a flair for Brontë-esque romantic melodrama. In Italian Gothic Horror Films, 1957-1969 (McFarland & Company, 2015), author Roberto Curti notes that the writers also reference elements from less popular Poe stories A Tale from the Ragged Mountains (pub: 1844) and Some Words with a Mummy (pub: 1845).
De Martino was a prolific filmmaker, but, during the ‘60s, he tended to stick to three of the decade’s other genres fads – peplum, Eurospy, and spaghetti westerns. His output included the by-the-numbers, but still very charming Django Shoots First (Italian: Django spara per primo, 1966) and a notorious 007 rip-off called O.K. Connery (aka: Operation Kid Brother, 1967), which starred Sean Connery's brother Neil. He didn’t return to horror again until the ‘70s, when he made an Exorcist cash-in, The Antichrist (Italian: L'anticristo, 1974), starring aging Hollywood star Mel Ferrer, and an Omen cash-in, Holocaust 2000 (aka: The Chosen, 1977), staring aging Hollywood star Kirk Douglas. He closed out the ‘80s and his career with unique science fiction, action, and horror-friendly thrillers, like Pumaman (Italian: L'uomo puma, 1980), Blood Link (Italian: Extrasensorial, 1982), Formula for Murder (Italian: 7, Hyden Park: la casa maledetta, 1985), and Miami Golem (1985), the latter two starring David Warbeck, who himself almost landed the role of James Bond.
If you are interested in further discussion of the year that brought audiences Black Sunday and House of Usher, please check out the two-part 25th episode of the Genre Grinder podcast, where Patrick Ripoll and I take a look at the Year in Horror: 1960.
As tended to happen with a lot of Italy’s early Gothic horror films, The Blancheville Monster ended up in the public domain in the US and, as such, has been very easy to find on home video, DVD, television, and streaming over the years. It has been harder, however, to find a release with a nice transfer. Rumor has it that someone uploaded an HD version of the Italian dub without subtitles to YouTube at some point, but I was only able to find an okay-ish SD print when I went searching for it. This brand new, 2K restoration of the original camera negatives is far and away the best The Blancheville Monster has ever looked. Ulloa’s dynamic, black & white cinematography exhibits plenty of tonal range without the blow-outs and crushes of previous versions. The image isn’t overly sharp, but there’s plenty of rich texture, neatly separated elements, and details are sharp enough to notice little things, like the fact that you can occasionally see the cast’s breath. Grain levels aren’t hampered by too much telecine noise and print artifacts are limited to a bit of pulsing and a few white/black flecks. The only possible issue here is that other widescreen versions have always been framed at 1.66:1 or 1.78:1 and this disc’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio is a little snug on the top and bottom.
The Blancheville Monster is presented with two audio options, Italian and English, both in uncompressed LPCM 1.0 mono. As per usual, this, like most Italian films of the era, was shot without synced sound and all language versions were dubbed. In this case, the Italian, German, and Spanish casts seem to be speaking different languages on set, so the lip sync rarely matches, no matter what track you choose. The English dub does have slight advantages in terms of aural depth, volume, and, arguably, performance quality. If you’re apt to nitpick, you’ll probably find the Italian track is a little more compressed and distorted. Carlo Franci is the credited musical director and most, if not all of the cues have been either recycled from other movies or taken from a library.
Commentary with Paul Anthony Nelson – The filmmaker, one half of production company Cinema Viscera with Perri Cummings, and movie historian breaks down the production process, the greater careers of the cast & crew, Italian horror of the period, and the Poe connections.
Castle of Horror (6:50, HD) – Italian film devotee Mark Thompson Ashworth introduces The Blancheville Monster, the many borrowed Poe motifs, differences between the Italian and English dubs (one is technically set in Scotland, the other in France), and Gothic horror ‘touchstones.’
Are You Sure It Wasn't Just Your Imagination? (20:54, HD) – A relatively extensive new video essay by writer and pop culture historian Keith Allison, who takes an honest critical appraisal of The Blancheville Monster and what led to its production. His long view approach to the horror of the era goes back to Hammer’s groundbreaking early Gothic releases and how they inspired a worldwide revival that eventually made its way to Roger Corman and Mario Bava, and made Poe a financially viable source of adaptation.
Welcome to the Manor (13:55, HD) – Author and filmmaker Antonio Tentori wraps things up with one last look at Poe’s impact on Italian horror, the cast & crew, and some of the other Gothic horrors of the 1960s.
American opening credits (in SD)
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.